A remarkable snooker season will be brought to a close with the World Championship, which begins inside the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Saturday when 32 of the leading cueists in the world head to the home of the game looking to win the sport’s ultimate prize.
That is exactly what Mark Selby did last season and he is back to attempt to make a successful defence of his crown. This feels like one of the most wide open tournaments in recent years though so whoever wins will have played very well.
2021 – Mark Selby
2020 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2019 – Judd Trump
2018 – Mark Williams
2017 – Mark Selby
2016 – Mark Selby
2015 – Stuart Bingham
2014 – Mark Selby
2013 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
2012 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
I’m sure everyone knows the format by now but for those who are unsure of it, it is long course snooker all the way over this 17 day marathon. The first round is the best-of-19 frames which goes up to the best-of-25 for the second round and the quarter finals. The semi-finals at the best-of-33 frames and then the four session final will see a champion crowned on the third Sunday and Monday over the best-of-35 frames. The draw was conducted on Thursday.
He might not be the number one player in the world rankings anymore but as the defending champion Mark Selby is the number one seed for this tournament and he will be in the top quarter as a result of that. Three other seeds will be out to deny him a semi-final spot from this section with the leading one among those being Mark Williams. They are the two former champions in this quarter but in Yan Bingtao and Barry Hawkins there are two other seeds who are more than capable of lifting this title.
There is a strong Welsh flavour to this quarter with three of the four qualifiers coming from that part of the world. Jamie Jones is the highest ranked of them and he’ll be the opening opponent for Mark Selby. The youngster Jackson Page will make his debut in the tournament from this quarter while the amateur Michael White will look to break the heart of Mark Williams in the first round. Chris Wakelin will go in search of a first Crucible win in this quarter too.
The former champion Judd Trump is the highest seed in what is a very competitive quarter where each of the four seeds have been to at least the semi-final of this tournament. The Champion of Champions and Turkish Masters winner has a below par record here though which will certainly interest Kyren Wilson who has beaten Trump here before. The 2020 finalist is becoming a bit of a specialist in this tournament while Anthony McGill tends to play his best stuff here and he could be on a collision course for a quarter final with Wilson which would revoke memories of that incredible semi-final of two years ago. 2015 champion Stuart Bingham completes the quartet of seeds.
If there was one qualifier the whole draw would have wanted to avoid it would most likely have been Ding Junhui. The former finalist looks like he is playing some nice snooker again and it is Wilson who drew the short straw by landing him. Hossein Vafaei wouldn’t have been on the wish list of any seeded player either and it is Trump who has drawn the Shootout champion. The other two qualifiers in this section are Lyu Haotian and Liam Highfield, the latter still looking for his first win inside this famous arena.
Neil Robertson will break off in this tournament and the favourite to become the world champion for the second time in his career. The Australian has already won the English Open, The Masters, Players Championship and Tour Championship but I would imagine he would give a fair bit of those up to land this title. He could meet the man he defeated from 9-4 down in the Tour Championship final in the last eight here in John Higgins. The talented pair of Jack Lisowski and Luca Brecek make up the seeds in this quarter.
Matthew Stevens is the pick of the qualifiers in this part of the draw. The twice former finalist has already had to see off Ali Carter to make it back to the Crucible and might feel he has little to lose from here on in. The Thai pair of Noppon Saengkham and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh have also been placed in this quarter with the latter very much having nothing to lose having secured his tour card at the qualifying event. The debutant Ashley Hugill is the other player in this quarter of the draw.
Sign up for a Boylesports account to get up to £25 in free bets! Perfect offer for this event! Click the image below for this great offer! New accounts only. 18+ T&Cs apply. Gamble Aware.
There will be a lot of attention on the bottom quarter of the draw in this tournament because it is absolutely stacked with amazing players. The new world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan heads up the quarter but he’s defending the £500,000 he won when he landed this title two years ago so he’s immediately under some ranking pressure. That will be music to the ears of the UK Championship and German Masters winner Zhao Xintong who could meet O’Sullivan in an epic quarter final. Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen are two men who will hope to have a bit to say about that.
Two notable qualifiers have also been placed in this section of the draw in Dave Gilbert and Stephen Maguire. They have slotted in to set up tasty first round ties against O’Sullivan and Murphy respectively. Scott Donaldson has improved the longer the season has gone on and he’ll be out to do some damage here while Jamie Clarke already has a Crucible win to his name and he’ll be looking to at least double his tally from this part of the draw.
I have backed Mark Williams for a number of the longer format events this season and I’m not overly sure how I haven’t been paid out on him yet. He went down in a deciding frame in The Masters when he had his semi-final as good as won against the eventual winner Neil Robertson and then he went down in a quarter final of the Players Championship in another deciding frame. I wasn’t on at the Tour Championship but he went out in a deciding frame there as well so had the fine margins been on Williams’ side we could be looking at the player of the season with three massive titles to go along with the British Open one which he did pick up. Williams has won this title three times and looks to be in similar form to when he won this three years ago. He is in a half of the draw which looks destined to open right up and with Robertson and O’Sullivan, the two men who denied him in two of those three deciding frames, not in his half of the draw I think the 33/1 on Willo to win a fourth world title looks too big.
The second quarter is full of talent with three so called Crucible specialists in there in Kyren Wilson, Stuart Bingham and Anthony McGill while Judd Trump arrives here fresher than ever, although I’m more than a little concerned that he has been babbling on about a long break from the game after this tournament. That isn’t the sort of talk I want to hear if I’m going to invest my hard-earned. Wilson has Ding Junhui in the opening round so he is by no means guaranteed to come through that while Bingham has been out of form all season. That leaves me with McGill who has a nice first round draw in Liam Highfield in that the Stoke potter has never won a match here and from there you would expect the Scot to go from strength to strength. McGill has gone SF-QF in the last two years here ending the title defence of O’Sullivan last year before going down to Bingham in an epic quarter final in a deciding frame. He tends to raise his game for this place so it is certainly no bad thing that he has already made a semi-final and a quarter final of the lesser events this term. At 66/1 he looks a big price with his draw.
I’ll also take the 14/1 that McGill wins his quarter. I’ve kind of eluded to the potential of his draw opening up and when he gets into the best of 25s there is nobody he’ll fear after he beat O’Sullivan last year. That is a daft price. Another big price is the 10/1 on Luca Brecel to win the third quarter. His section is all about Neil Robertson but the Australian has an ordinary record in this tournament and while he has been the player of the season so far, it remains to be seen whether he can overcome his issues with the venue. Brecel might end up meeting John Higgins in the second round but he had him where he wanted him at the Tour Championship last month before fading in the second session. I’m not convinced he’s without a chance in that match. Brecel has a poor record here but he has never arrived here off the back of a better season so I’m willing to chance that he can pull off an upset and reach the semi-final here.
In the bottom quarter I fancy Stephen Maguire to have a nice run here. He is another player who has a pretty ordinary record here by his high standards in that two semi-final appearances are the only one-table setup trips he has encountered but having qualified for the event and having next to nothing to defend both here and next season I think we might see the best of the Scot with the pressure lifted. This is a tough quarter there is no getting away from that but the seeds could easily fall by the wayside in the opening round and even if they don’t Maguire has shown in the past that he fears nobody and can beat all of them. He has a meeting with Shaun Murphy in the first round with Murphy arriving here without much form behind him. He feels a big price at 16/1.
Back M.Williams to win World Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back L.Brecel to win 3rd Quarter for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 with William Hill
Back them here:
Back A.McGill to win World Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfred (1/2 1-2)
Back A.McGill to win 2nd Quarter for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 with Coral
Back S.Maguire to win 4th Quarter for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 with Coral
Back them here: